"God does not speak simply to be heard. He speaks to be obeyed. Obedience is the Alpha and Omega of discerning God’s voice.”
Today's In "Other" Words quote comes from Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God Speaks by Priscilla Shirer. The words were familiar to me, because I actually read the book a year ago and participated in the corresponding Bible study. Yet while I was reading the book and trying to apply its principles, I did not hear any booming voices from Heaven commanding me to obey. I did not feel any great callings to sell all of my possessions and become an underground missionary in China. In fact, at the time Don and I were seeking whether God wanted us to become more involved with the youth ministry at the church we were attending. Though at first I thought the answer was yes, events in the following months revealed that God actually did not want us at that church at all. To have pushed too far forward with our attempts to obey could have been disastrous, since it obviously took several months for us to clearly discern God's voice. I realized that when we seek to obey God, we must not assume that He will always call to us do something life-changing; much more often, He tells us to obey in smaller ways.
God certainly does speak to be obeyed. He does not speak through a sermon so that I can analyze the pastor's speaking abilities or contrast the comfort level of a church pew to my favorite recliner. He does not speak through His Word so that I can check "read Bible" off my daily To Do list and move on without another thought. He does not speak through a well-timed article, note of encouragement, or devotional just to give me warm fuzzy feelings. No, He speaks to me so that I will obey. If listening to sermons, studying the Bible, or reading other Christian literature is to be of any value, I must obey what God's voice is telling me through them.
And this morning, My Utmost for His Highest reminded me of the kind of obedience God is calling me to at this point in my life. Oswald Chambers discusses John 21:17, three simple words of Jesus to Peter: "Feed my sheep."
And Jesus has some extraordinarily funny sheep, some bedraggled, dirty sheep, some awkward, butting sheep, some sheep that have gone astray! It is impossible to weary God's love, and it is impossible to weary that love in me if it springs from the one centre.
Feeding sheep is often interpreted as a pastor teaching God's word to His church. But God also commands me to love my neighbors who blast loud music, to forgive obnoxious relatives, to do good to strangers who cut me off in traffic, and to offer hospitality. Even in my own home, I may find those awkward, bedraggled, dirty sheep who need to be fed and loved. I have not recently been called to a full-time ministry or mission, but I know I am commanded to love my husband and children (see Titus 2:4). They are the sheep that I am to feed.
My obedience may not seem like a great act of devotion. God's voice may not give me instructions that change the course of my life forever. Rather, my daily obedience is found in getting out of bed early with a smile instead of a groan. I can obey by keeping a cheerful heart and a patient attitude when things go wrong. I obey by taking the time to teach my children God's word, even if it would be easier to surf the Internet while they play on their own. I obey by exerting the energy necessary to maintain a comfortable home, provide good food to eat, and meet my husband's needs. I obey by changing hundreds of diapers, cleaning up hundreds of spills, saying goodnight hundreds of times, without giving up and losing heart. I obey by loving others, even when it is difficult, even when I am tired, even when others frustrate me, because my love comes from God living within me.
On my own, I am powerless to obey, but because He is my shepherd, He gently leads me down a path of joyful obedience. Moment by moment, I can choose to ignore His voice, or choose to follow the Shepherd with small acts of self-sacrificing love.
Yes, God speaks to be obeyed. His voice is calling me today to feed His sheep - those funny, bedraggled sheep whom He has entrusted to my care - with a joyful heart. What is He asking of you? Will you obey?